Menopause and Insomnia: How to Get Better Sleep During Menopause

Menopause and insomnia are often two peas in a pod. As hormone levels change, women can experience symptoms of insomnia. But there are things you can do to sleep better.

By Nicole Gleichmann

Getting enough sleep can be challenging for anyone, but it’s especially difficult for women as we grow older. As our bodies transition from our child-bearing years, we experience a multitude of changes that can make quality sleep seem like a distant memory.

Sleep is critical for our health and quality of life, so it’s important that we do what we can to clock in 7 or more hours every night. When we don’t get enough, we can experience brain fog, fatigue, and memory troubles. Over time, a lack of sleep can result in health conditions like cardiac disease and depression.

This begs the question: why is it so hard for menopausal women to get enough sleep, and what can you do to regain control? By the end of this article, you will have the knowledge you need to get restful, restorative sleep.

What is Menopause?

Menopause is a natural part of women’s lives that occurs once they haven’t had a menstrual cycle for one full year. The period after this 12-months is known as post menopause and the period before is perimenopause.

Perimenopause can start in a women’s late 30s or into her 40s and lasts from two years all the way up to 10 years. During this time, the ovaries production of hormones like estrogen and progesterone slowly decline. It’s this change in hormone levels that leads to tell-tale menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep problems.

For most women, the most severe symptoms of perimenopause occur in the one to two years prior to menopause due to an accelerated drop in estrogen production. Following menopause, symptoms tend to decline, although lower levels of estrogen can increase the risk of health conditions like cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.

Insomnia and Menopause

Many women will start having sudden difficulties with sleep in their 30s or 40s that are unknowingly due to perimenopause. Some clues that you might be experiencing menopause-induced sleep disturbances include:

  • Disrupted sleep/trouble staying asleep (particularly if you wake up from feeling too hot)
  • Difficulties falling asleep
  • Waking up early, unable to go back to bed
  • Reduced total amount of time asleep
  • Sleep apnea
  • Daytime fatigue

While it can be difficult to regain quality sleep during menopause, it’s not impossible. Understanding what causes these symptoms and how you can combat them can help you improve your sleep quality and get a good night’s rest.

Why Many Women Experience Trouble Sleeping During Menopause

There are multiple factors that can make sleep difficult for women during this period of their lives. Here we will review some of the most common causes.

1. Sleep Hormone Changes

Estrogen is not only women’s primary sex hormone; it also plays a role in things like mood, weight, and sleep. When it comes to sleep, estrogen is involved in both falling asleep and staying asleep throughout the light. When estrogen levels fall during perimenopause, some women will experience insomnia symptoms.

2. Adrenaline Levels and Hot Flashes

Hot flashes are one of the tell-tale signs of menopause. They’re caused by a rapid spike in adrenaline levels, a hormone that impacts the body in ways that can increase your alertness and body temperature. When adrenaline causes your blood pressure and heart rate to increase when you’re asleep, you will usually quickly wake up with a need to cool down.

3. Lifestyle Changes

Not every reason for sleep trouble at this stage in life is directly related to physiological changes in the body. Around the same time that women will begin to experience menopause symptoms, there are many coincidental lifestyle changes that might occur which can themselves lead to worry, stress, and insomnia. These include:

  • Children moving out of the house
  • The extra financial burden of college tuition
  • Career changes/retirement planning
  • Divorce (kids leaving the home and other events make this phase of life common for divorce)

Because this stage of life is often one filled with lots of changes, the mental impact of outside events can themselves lead to insomnia.

4. Mood Difficulties

Depression affects nearly 25% of women at one point during their lives. One of the periods of time where women are at an increased of depression is during perimenopause. Additionally, mood swings are common during perimenopause, and stress, depression, and frustration can all make sleep more challenging.

5. Sleep Disorders and Other Health Conditions

Largely thanks to hormone changes during menopause, women can experience weight gain, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and other conditions that can make quality sleep hard to get.

What You Should Do if You’re Struggling with Menopause and Insomnia

If you’re struggling with insomnia and menopause, there are a few lifestyle changes that you can make to improve your sleep.

  • Work on Sleep Hygiene: Setting healthy sleep habits is even more important during this stage of life as it will help keep your sleep cycle normal. This includes going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time every day, limiting light exposure before sleep, and reducing late night distractions (think pets in bed or your phone on your nightstand).
  • Sleep Comfortably: Try having your room on the cool side and wearing breathable nightgowns.
  • Exercise, Eat Healthy, and Reduce Stress: These healthy-living tips are important for your health and ability to sleep well during menopause.

Lastly, if you find that your symptoms aren’t going away, see your doctor. They can help you decide if there are treatments that you need (like hormone replacement therapy, or HRT) or natural supplements that might help you sleep better.

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